I’ve heard these words numerous times since my diagnosis with alopecia areata in 2010. Sometimes these words are SHOUTED for all to hear by young children. I’ve heard these words, or similar, in swimming pool changing rooms, supermarket aisles, on planes, on trains, on buses and screamed across busy car parks: “LOOK, MUMMY, THAT LADY HAS NO HAIR!!!”
I get it. I totally understand why a small child would feel the need to point this out to their parent. They have probably never seen a woman with hair loss before and are keen to point out this phenomenon to their mummy or daddy in case they’ve never seen one either. A young child is unlikely to see a bald woman on children’s TV or in one of their books. As such, a bald woman can be as interesting to a young child as a bright green caterpillar 🙂
And the thing is, I’m not that bothered by young children commenting on my appearance. Young children are inquisitive. Young children see new things around them all the time. And young children speak their mind! As the ‘Catchphrase’ goes, they “say what they see”. This is why you might hear a young child repeatedly shouting “Blue car, blue car, blue car, BLUUUUUUUUE CAAAAAARR”. Kids can be really annoying, huh!? 😉
When we hear “Look, a bald lady” or “Where’s that lady’s hair gone?” or “She looks funny with no hair”, we bald women shouldn’t get offended. Although I must confess “Why has that man got boobs?!” did hurt my feelings a little! 😉
Young children are learning about the world and as much as we might feel a bit embarrassed to have our baldness pointed out, it’s not like we didn’t know.
The problem comes from some parents. Adults. Grown ups. Now, I understand there is no guide book which covers every parenting situation. I appreciate that raising babies into toddlers into children into teens into adults is a really hard job (probably none harder!). Your children will challenge you and occasionally place you in awkward situations. It’s how you deal with the situation that matters, not the fact that the situation occurred. Parents, when you see a bald woman approach you and your small child, please do not instantly go into a state of blind panic. I’ve seen the look of worry/fear/panic many a time. Do not be scared about what words your small, outspoken and often VERY LOUD three year old may direct at me. It’s how you deal with the situation, rather than what they SCREAM! Here’s a few pointers:
1. If your child shouts, “Look, that lady has no hair”, do not drag the child off and scold the child. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion. This helps nobody. It leaves the bald woman feeling humiliated and ashamed. The child feels like they’ve committed the worst sin ever and the parent is angry and embarrassed. Nobody wins. Instead, explain and educate. “Yes, that lady doesn’t have any hair. It’s not often we see ladies without hair but I think she looks fabulous” (that would be nice to hear!) or “Yes, some ladies don’t have any hair. She maybe would prefer you not to shout about it to everyone though!” (perhaps at this point share a smile with the bald woman).
2. Chances are, if you have encountered a bald woman on the street, she is ‘comfortable’ with her baldness. She has made a decision not to wear a wig or a hat or scarf. As such, she is more likely to be willing to engage in conversation about her baldness. It could be due to alopecia areata (like me), another type of alopecia, or a result of chemotherapy induced hair loss, or perhaps personal choice. But if she is not covered up, it’s likely she’ll be willing to help explain. Not that she needs to of course. If your child has said “that lady has no hair”, your reaction could be “Yes, that’s right. Maybe if we ask nicely, she will explain why”. I’ve often explained to small children that my hair is ‘poorly’ and that’s why I don’t have any. I’m sure those undergoing chemotherapy could explain what’s happening to them in a similar child-friendly way.
3. Teach your children from a young age that people have differences. Teach them to be accepting of these differences. These differences could be anything from skin colour, hair colour, physical ability, height, weight, scars, skin conditions…the list goes on. The sooner you teach your child to accept people no matter what their appearance, the less awkward “I wish the ground would swallow me up” situations you will have.
As somebody that goes about with my patchy or bald head uncovered, I do not actually get that many comments. But it’s how the occasional comments are dealt with that matters.
I hope this might help any parents who read this (and hopefully raise a wry smile from any of my fellow friends with alopecia).
This blog post relates to comments received from young children. Dealing with the things adults have said will need a whole other blog post……..and maybe some censoring on my suggestions for responses back! ;-